Hue Tofu, a simple and familiar dish, has deeply ingrained itself in the hearts of the former Imperial Capital's residents. Today, visiting Hue to enjoy a bowl of tofu and behold the charming scenery of sky, river, clouds, and mountains at the foot of Thien Mu Pagoda is an extraordinary experience.
Hue Tofu – a delicious native food
In Northern Vietnam, it's called "Tao Pho," in the South it's known as "Tau Hu," and in Hue, it's called "Dau hu" Hue Tofu is a familiar and unpretentious dish, both healthy and gentle, with a delightful and enticing fragrance. For Hue Tofu, a bit of ginger, either crushed or sliced, is added for a slightly spicy kick, along with a touch of dissolved sugar. The pieces of tofu are scooped into small blocks. Those who prefer it hot can have it as is, and during the summer, a few ice cubes can provide a refreshing touch.
A distinctive feature of Hue Tofu is that the soy milk is poured into ceramic or porcelain containers and sealed with a wooden lid. These containers are placed inside a padded, insulating cover made of foam and nylon to retain warmth. After 10-15 minutes, the tofu will set. Achieving the right consistency—soft, fragrant, and flavorful—requires skillful hands. This dish is made with care, from selecting the beans, straining the milk, to allowing it to set.
In the past, Hue Tofu was carried by street vendors and peddlers along the roads. When someone ordered, they would scoop tofu into a bowl from the container, opening the lid. The vendor would drain the excess water, scoop the tender tofu pieces into the bowl, arranging them in layers. Hue Tofu is always served hot. A bowl of Hue Tofu consists of tender slices of tofu, a spoonful of sugar, a bit of lime, and finely crushed ginger.
The vendor's carrying pole has two ends. One end is a wooden box with three tiers: the top holds bowls, the second tier has sugar and a spoon, and the bottom holds water in a container with pandan leaves and lime slices. The other end carries the tofu container. The Hue Tofu vendor's pole is always warm as the ceramic container is covered in foam and nylon, maintaining the heat of the tofu. When eating, the slices of tofu melt in your mouth, the sweetness of the sugar, the aroma of lime and ginger combine to create an extremely delicious flavor.
Cooking Hue Tofu
Hue Tofu is made from soybeans, and though it might sound simple, it's not easy. The beans are soaked until soft and then thoroughly cleaned. Next, the beans are ground and mixed with water to produce a fragrant, milk-white liquid. This soybean liquid is mixed with cold water in the correct proportion and boiled in a large pot. During cooking, the flame needs to be carefully controlled to maintain a proper simmer. Fresh pandan leaves are added, and the mixture is stirred with a wooden stick. Once the mixture emits a pleasant fragrance, it's strained through a clean cloth before being poured into containers, sealed, and left for about 20 minutes to set.
In the past, before machinery was developed, making Hue Tofu was a labor-intensive process. The grinding step required a stone mortar and manual labor. Consequently, to obtain a creamy, white milk-like liquid, multiple rounds of straining were necessary. Nowadays, these steps have been simplified with machinery, and the traditional ceramic containers have been replaced with lighter, better-insulated materials.
Enjoying Hue Tofu by Thien Mu Pagoda
Today, while various snack foods are emerging, and Hue Tofu is being modified with different ingredients to attract a wider audience, finding truly original Hue Tofu vendors can be quite challenging. In Hue, near Thien Mu Pagoda, the vendors retain the authentic taste. This is why tourists love Hue Tofu.
When you visit Thien Mu Pagoda during the late afternoon, you'll find nothing more delightful than savoring a bowl of Hue Tofu while enjoying the romantic sunset over the Perfume River, with red phoenix trees and dragon boats. Visit Thien Mu Pagoda and the vendors selling Hue Tofu beneath it, and you'll be transported back to the fond memories of childhood. Sitting beside the Hue Tofu vendor, holding a bowl of tofu, you'll find immense pleasure in reliving the taste of your youth.
These humble tofu vendors have become particularly unique and poetic. On hot summer days, adding a bit of ice to the dish makes it "iced tofu," yet for those who always cherish the traditional taste like myself, choosing to enjoy a bowl of hot tofu is to savor the deep, delicious flavors of this dish. A bowl of Hue Tofu costs just around 10,000 VND, an insignificant sum, yet the vendors are determined to preserve this unique dish.
To enjoy this delicious treat the authentic Hue way, you can visit the renowned Hue Tofu vendors right by Thien Mu Pagoda on Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Street. A bowl of fragrant, sweet Hue Tofu, sold at an affordable price, will satisfy visitors from near and far.